If we are, as the saying goes, defined by our work, then I want my work to really mean something. To me, the second half of life is the time to plow experience, skills, time, and compassion into work that gives back.
We're young and we're healthy. The question is, how will we spend our time? As chair of the judges panel for a unique and inspiring awards program -- the Purpose Prize -- I have the honor of reading hundreds of stories about people spending what used to be called the "golden years" doing their most creative and meaningful work yet.
Created by Civic Ventures, the Purpose Prize encourages and promotes the work of social entrepreneurs in the second half of their lives who are creating new ways to solve tough social problems.
Here's who qualifies: Adults 60 years and older who put their ideas into action after the age of 50. They can be leaders within nonprofit, government, or private sector institutions or organizations. For the first time, U.S. residents working on issues that are global or international in scope will be recognized.
But the best way to really understand the Purpose Prize and the immense potential of the experience generation is to meet past winners.
After years of watching babies die from preventable causes, Sharon Rohrbach, a neonatal hospital nurse from St. Louis, Missouri, launched her own nonprofit. Nurses for Newborns brings RNs into the homes of at-risk families to care for babies and provide essential education and support to new parents. Sharon's team of nurses has saved countless lives.
Gordon Johnson, after 20 years leading statewide foster care programs in Illinois, took matters in his own hands and started Neighbor To Family, a private nonprofit agency that keeps siblings together in foster care. Now 74, Johnson has helped more than 4,000 siblings avoid traumatic separation and stay together through the system.
And Wilma Melville, 74-years-old and a retired physical education teacher, has spent the past ten years working to build the nation's readiness for handling disasters. She rescues dogs, and then trains them to work with firefighters to sniff out survivors of bombings, earthquakes, mudslides and the like. The National Disaster Search Dog Foundation Melville founded has produced 85 canine-firefighter search teams and remains the only organization in the country dedicated to partnering rescued dogs with firefighters and providing them at no cost to fire departments.
The Purpose Prize is all about social innovation. Five $100,000 and ten $10,000 awards are given each year to people over 60 - like Sharon, Gordon and Wilma - who are creating new ways to tackle society's biggest problems.
Do you know someone over 60 who is changing the world? Nominate them today. The deadline for all nominations is March 1. For more information, go to purposeprize.org.